All competitive sports form a giant pyramid. Countless participants at the bottom, fewer and fewer athletes as the mob elbows their way up the pyramid, and only the elite few at the top. In skiing, the pinnacle of the pyramid is usually associated with making the National Team – which we know as the U.S. Ski Team. In the HoliMont Snowsports School, there are two members of the staff who reached the pinnacle of the pyramid.
Corey and Kelly Hacker are the directors of the Freestyle program. They met while competing, dated, fell in love, married, and now have a beautiful baby daughter named Kylee. They are Western New York natives who trudged out to Kissing Bridge most nights after school so that they could hone their skiing skills. Both had parents who supported their ambitions and selflessly drove them both ways until they could transport themselves.
Both Corey and Kelly were drawn to freestyle skiing, where they competed in moguls and aerials. They are living proof that great talent only shines after it has been buffed by thousands of hours of practice (the noted author Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book “Outliers – The Secret Story of Success” that it takes a minimum of ten thousand hours of practice to become a virtuoso at anything).
Ironically, Corey and Kelly never knew each other while they were kids at KB. They met as they were both living in Lake Placid, NY while training at the Olympic Aerial Training Center. At this facility spectators can watch the aerialists ski down a gigantic, wet, astroturf ramp that abruptly ends with a sharply angled ski jump, which catapults the aerialists high into the air. While airborne, the aerialists perform a dazzling array of flips, rolls, and twists – sometimes all at once! These summer skiing aeronauts wear skis, boots, and life jackets – for they land in a large, in-ground swimming pool. There are ramps of varying heights, each more fearsome looking than the next, and the largest ramp is designed to allow competitors to practice triple flips – before they spectacularly splashdown in the water. The Hackers said that it takes a MINIMUM of three to five years of practice to learn how to safely execute a triple flip on skis.
By the time Corey and Kelly were regulars at the summer training center, they were on the U.S. Ski Team. Both had slogged their way through the “minor leagues” of ski competition. They had excelled in regional competitions, which earned them the right to compete in Nor-Am events. In this corner of the globe, Nor-Am events are one level below the pinnacle of ski competition, The World Cup. To make the U.S. Ski Team, one must earn one’s spurs on the Nor-Am circuit. Through relentless training, hard work, and laser-like focus, Both Corey and Kelly emerged from the Nor-Am heap and made it onto the United States Freestyle Ski Team and the World Cup circuit. Many try, but only a handful of skiers who ever click into a pair of bindings can ever say that they had the privilege to represent their nation as a member of the National Ski Team.
At the National Team level, skiing is a full-time job that is not always accompanied by full-time pay. Both Corey and Kelly will be the first to tell you that you needed to treat your appointment to the U.S. Ski Team as a business opportunity. Over the years both have made deals with ski manufactures and an array of sponsors to keep the wolf from the door. At one point, they began a window washing business in Lake Placid to help finance their expenses (especially during the financially lean summer months.)
Once they became fixtures on the team, Corey and Kelly travelled around the world competing in aerials. At this elite level, your travel, lodging, and food expenses are picked up by the U.S. Ski Team. They travelled all over the United States and Canada (Kelly was especially fond of the beauty of the Canadian Rockies), and also to France, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, Finland, Italy, the Czech Republic and, believe it or not – China. In this whirlwind of travel, they had some spectacular moments. Both of them took 5th place in the aerial events for men and women at the 2001 World Championships. Corey also fondly remembers winning the overall Nor-Am Grand Prix aerial title in 1998, an accomplishment that vaulted him onto the U.S. Ski Team. Kelly was the Women’s U.S. National Champion in aerials in 2001 and 2004. She twice placed 4th in a World Cup aerial event and had twenty career top-twenty finishes.
Any one of their numerous accomplishments would be enough to puff up many of us with pride – but not Corey or Kelly. They travelled the world representing our nation, but never forgot their roots. I sometimes ski down Snowbird (a trail at HoliMont) and stop to watch Corey as he is – with shovel in hand – fiddling with a jump. I always ski away and think, “He was on the U.S. Ski Team, but now is selflessly toiling for the up-and-coming freestyle skiers.”
You won’t find nicer, kinder, or more unassuming folks than the Hackers. Like all those who are comfortable in their own skin, they carry their achievements with a quiet dignity. They related their incredible achievements to me as I was prepping for this article as if they were dictating a shopping list – it is simply not in their nature to be boastful. The Snowsports School is blessed to have the Hackers as coaches. For, by their example, our youngsters can learn much about how to conduct themselves – on and off the slopes.
This season the HoliMont Flite Team has clearly been benefitting from the knowledge and work ethic that Corey and Kelly bring to the table. In a recent competition at Bristol Mountain, the FLITE Team came back to HoliMont with some impressive results:
Maggie Ryan: 4th Overall
Robbie Andison: 16th Overall
Ryan Aspenleiter: 50th Overall
Taylor Morrell: 53rd Overall
Kennedy Cooper- 3rd in Age; 15th Overall
Marissa Vasatka- 4th in Age; 19th Overall
Lexi Crotty- 9th in Age; 20th Overall *
Riley Morrell- 1st in Age; 27th Overall *
Elissa Cole- 11th in Age; 34th Overall
Samantha Morrell- 14th in Age; 35th Overall *
Rylan Evans- 1st Age; 2nd Overall
Peter McMillan- 9th in Age; 14th Overall
Parker Johnston- 1st in Age; 16th Overall *
Finn Hayes-Vickers- 10th in Age; 20th Overall
Matt Cove- 15th in Age; 30th Overall
Sean Ryan- 2nd in Age; 31st Overall
Jared Smolinski- 16th in Age; 36th Overall
*First Mogul competition
Maggie Ryan- 3rd Overall
Robbie Andison- 15th Overall
Rylan Evans- 38th Overall
Ryan Aspenleiter- 42nd Overall
Elissa Cole- 2nd in Age; 13th Overall
Marissa Vasatka- 4th in Age; 17th Overall
Kennedy Cooper- 5th in Age; 20th Overall
Lexi Crotty- 11th in Age ;28th Overall
Riley Morrell- 2nd in Age; 30th Overall
Samantha Morrell- 12th in Age; 34th Overall
Finnean Hayes-Vickers- 6th in Age; 9th Overall
Peter McMillan- 10th in Age; 18th Overall
Matt Cove-13th in Age; 28th Overall
Jared Smolinski- 15th in Age; 31st Overall
Sean Ryan- 3rd In Age; 34th Overall
Parker Johnston- 4th in Age; 35th Overall
Taylor Morrell- 14th in Age; 40th Overall